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Johnnie Moore's WeblogViews: 240
Sep 08, 2009 12:14 amJohnnie Moore's Weblog#

John Stephen Veitch


"Bob Geldof made a point at a NESTA bash a few months back, where he said innovation happens naturally in response to strong need, linking Ireland's dire poverty to its subsequent reputation for innovation.

This is a hobbyhorse for me as I think so many innovation processes are simply toxic to creating conditions in which people feel moved to acknowledge real needs. Bureaucracies flourish by subordinating spontaneous human responses and awareness to standardised systems. Organisational hierarchy means we're going to be guarding our status before we share anything resembling our vulnerability.

And for me, the very phrase "innovation process" verges on oxymoronic; innovation goes with disruption and disruption is what processes (typically) endeavour to eliminate.

Once an idea has been generated in response to need, it's quite likely to take on a life of it's own. It's not linear. So the Tour de France was invented by L'Equipe to maintain sales but went on to become something altogether bigger. Money bonds in Italy were devised to support internecine wars but evolved into a banking system. And there's an extended story debuking the somewhat preposterous idea that Westminster is the "mother of parliaments". In an earlier post I cited how the initiator of disruption is often not the main beneficiary.

All of which further challenges people's claims to be able to manage innovation. Yet claims to be the transformative agent are rife - even among folks who've been on the whole Web 2.0 bandwagon for a long time, who talk about radical change and then seem to imply that they know how to organise the whole thing for their big name clients.

Al is writing in the context of a discussion with Euan (Semple) about coercion:

There are no conscripts in the networked society, only volunteers, said Euan quoting Drucker, and he additionally observed that coercion is a very poor way to inspire people to deliver their very best work inside organisations.

I like to talk about "coalitions of the willing" as a way of thinking about how to get things done in a networked world.

How to relate to people without coercion is certainly a question to live in rather than answer. I do a lot of work with Open Space which heads in that direction and gets to some interesting places. One of its challenges is that quite often, when conventional structures for doing stuff are weakened, we're faced with slightly scary realisation that we may not actually know what we really want to do. Some practitioners call it "freedom shock", and one way to deal with it is to demand structure so we don't have to sit with the awful ambiguity.


My own view is that we can do without far more of our organisational rituals than we think without genuine chaos descending, because there are loads of unconscious signals and markers by which human beings manage to share space. We're usually too busy thinking, planning and organising to notice, but in moments of silence and peace I think we can sense something holding us together way more exciting and energetic than any organisational diagram."


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